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Every few months, my daughter Chloe and I go through her toy box and book shelf to purge things she's outgrown or doesn't play with. I hope to instill in her the importance of giving (and also encourage her not to hoard stuff). The trouble? Not only does Chloe occasionally beg to keep certain toys for which she's suddenly sentimental, but I've also discovered that donating used kids toys is surprisingly difficult. A lot of places just won’t take them.
First, I tried calling the children’s hospital where Chloe is a patient in the spina bifida clinic. But because of infection control concerns, the hospital will only accept donations of new toys that are still in the packages. Next, I tried to donate the toys to a local women and children’s shelter, but no luck there, either. They need things like pillows and toothbrushes for residents, and have no room for old toys. What about the Salvation Army? Nope. It only takes clothing, furniture, and household items.
It took me a while, but I've finally found a few places that will accept toy and book donations. None of these places will accept stuffed animals (too germy), but they'll happily take plastic toys that can be cleaned with a disinfecting solution, as well as used books.
Libraries: Our local library is thrilled to take any toys and books that we want to donate. There's a play space in the children's room where kids can play with toys (most of which seem to be donated), and librarians are happy to give used books a new home on their shelves. The librarians also told me that good-condition board books are especially desirable, since they so often fall apart (or, are chewed apart!) by overuse. And a bonus: Chloe gets to "visit" her old toys when we play at the library.
Therapy centers: Chloe has gotten physical therapy at both Easter Seals and a private, outpatient center, and both facilities gladly take donations of all kinds. Anything that makes therapy seem more like play time is greatly appreciated, both by the staff and the kids.
Schools, churches, the gym, your hairdresser: Privately run preschools often operate on a shoestring, so any donations, especially books, will help. The same goes for churches, many of which have dedicated spaces where kids play during religious services. Finally, if a local gym or hair salon offers on-site childcare, they might appreciate a few extra toys to keep the kids occupied.
Editor’s note: Secondhand stuffed toys may be too germy for human children, but pet shelters often welcome them for their canine kids.
What do you do with the toys, books and games your children no longer use?